Is your home safe while you are on holiday?

Having escaped for a short weekend break and desperate to find an Italian restaurant in the area, I tried to login to the hotel’s free Wi-Fi, only to find out they required my name, address and email address before giving me access. Now call me paranoid, but there’s no way I was giving out my details.

Why? Well, if I’m logged into free Wi-Fi in a hotel miles from my home, it stands to reason that my house is empty – giving a green light to anyone able to access the information.

We are all so familiar with the Internet and social media – Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc. – that we often overlook the security implications of using it. How many of you publish to Facebook the fact that your off on holiday soon, or tweet it to your followers, or check-in at a venue on Foursquare without a moment’s thought that you’re announcing to the world and his wife that you aren’t at home, or that you home isn’t going to be occupied?

Our social media habits are increasing the risk of burglaries, particularly when we are away on holiday – in 140 characters or less you could be announcing to family, friends or burglars that your home is going to be unoccupied and for how long.

Research into the social media habits of 3000 people for The Co-operative Travel and The Co-operative Insurance revealed that 51% of children regularly update their social media status about family holidays. Around 44% of respondents said they are friends with people they have never met and 37% said they have no privacy setting to prevent their information falling into the wrong hands.

Trevor Davis, Director of Retail Distribution for The Co-operative Travel, explains: “The traditional precautions people take to protect their homes whilst they’re on holiday are being undermined by the growth in social media. This is particularly true for families with teenage children, who perhaps aren’t as aware of the need to avoid telling strangers that your house will be unoccupied.

“This year’s holidaymakers are likely to be particularly vulnerable, due to the growing availability of Wi-Fi connections in hotels and resorts. This is allowing people to keep updating their accounts while abroad and inevitably raises the awareness that the user is away from home.”

Holidaymakers need to be aware of the information they give out, and the implications of sharing data with the wrong people. For example, Police in America uncovered a gang who targeted Facebook users, and broke into 50 homes after checking when the owners were away on holiday.

Tips for securing your information on social media sites:

  • Don’t use Foursquare to check-in to venues: airports, hotels or places abroad that will suggest that your home is empty
  • Watch who you share your data with – use privacy settings properly
  • The more specific you are about where you live, the easier it will be for a burglar to locate your home. Use a general location, such as a city or county.
  • Don’t publish dates of your holiday
  • Post updates about your holiday and photos after your holiday, not during
  • Keep personal information to a minimum
  • Don’t accept friendship requests from people you do not know – it may seem like a bit of harmless fun to add them but you just can’t be sure who they really are
  • Make sure your children are aware of the risks and don’t let them publish too much information about your holiday.